Meet our 2017 Summer Fellows
UNICEF Innovation Team Spotlight: Chris Szymczak
Elliot McBride, Deployment Specialist and Technical Writer, Copenhagen Denmark

Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in a small town in Australia, we had a farm with some pretty hilarious goats. Goats are great, more personality than a sheep, more intelligence than a cow. I studied a Bachelors degree in Science and a Masters in strategic and international studies at the Australian National University before moving to Pakistan with a nuclear strategy think tank.

What do you do?
I assist the scale-up of our innovations in country offices. This means assisting them in becoming operational, troubleshooting platform issues and helping country offices share good practice. I also write and develop learning tools for offices who use our innovations.

What’s your working day like?
I spend about 50% of my time on developing learning tools – these are usually guides and best practices pieces. I would typically spend the other 50% Skyping and emailing colleagues about their deployments all over the world!

How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I write recipe books for others so they can bake loads of innovation awesomeness

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a psychologist, or Ferris Bueller, not sure how I would have monetized the latter, but then again…I’m not Ferris Bueller.

How/when did you join UNICEF?
I joined when I was in Pakistan, I had a few data-based consultancies when the Innovation Lead position for UNICEF was advertised, I was about to go back to Australia but then a 6-month visit became 3 years.

What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
Being able to make the huge amount of data that we have available useful for other people.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Understanding that there are endless ways that a complex system can break and being able to understand the available options for fixing it even without having necessarily seen it/done it before.

What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
Running community-level focus groups in Multan, Punjab. Then playing cricket with youngsters after the day ended.

What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
Moving to Pakistan for a job with no pay. Staying on after it ended to see if it would pay off.

What are your passions?
I love sport, cooking and hanging out with my girlfriend.

What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?
Get to the field, don’t wait for someone to invite you – then grab whatever work that adds value and smash it. Do it for free if you must/can, but you create your own chances.

Here’s a picture of my dog.

Who do you look towards for inspiration?
My parents are wonderful people, I’m very lucky to have them – they have always been the source of encouragement I’ve needed whenever I’ve had moments of doubt or concern. My dog is also awesome he is a total bro.

My colleagues don’t know that…
I have drawn animal cartoon versions of all of them based on what animal they most remind me of.

Meet our 2017 Summer Fellows
UNICEF Innovation Team Spotlight: Chris Szymczak